Ann Arbor, MI – The 17th-ranked Michigan Wolverines welcome conference battle.
Jim Molinari is in his fourth season as head coach of the Leathernecks, who compete in the Summit League. They were picked to finish near the bottom of the conference standings this year and did nothing to prove the prediction wrong in Saturday's opener, as they were crushed by Dayton, 87-58.
John Beilein has been the head coach of Michigan since 2007 and hopes to lead his group to Big Ten Conference supremacy this season. The Wolverines are off to a hot start, winning both of their games thus far in convincing fashion. Most recently, they cruised past Towson on Monday by a 64-47 final.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between the Leathernecks and Wolverines in men's basketball.
Last Saturday's opener against Dayton was actually quite competitive through 20 minutes for Western Illinois, as the club trailed by just three points at intermission after shooting a blistering 65.2 percent from the field in the opening frame. Unfortunately, the second half yielded drastically different results for the Leathernecks, who connected on a mere 5-of-26 field goal attempts, including an 0-of-7 effort from three-point range. Western Illinois turned the ball over 16 times while posting only eight assists, a stark contrast to Dayton's line of 25 assists and eight turnovers. The Leathernecks must play better defense tonight, as they allowed the Flyers to shoot 56.9 percent from the field.
In the 17-point win over Towson on Monday, Michigan led by 21 points at intermission after holding the Tigers to 7-of-21 shooting from the field in the first half. The Wolverines forced 21 turnovers in that contest and finished with a 12-8 edge on the offensive glass. Tim Hardaway, Jr. led the offensive attack with 15 points, while Evan Smotrycz and Trey Burke chipped in 13 points apiece. In the season-opening win over Ferris State, Hardaway shot just 4-of-12 from the field en route to 12 points, and he will be viewed as the go-to guy offensively for the squad all season. Smotrycz tallied 14 points in that affair and seems to be the top option in the frontcourt.